With the Middle East, which was once the dream of many a Keralite, no longer that attractive on account of falling oil...
Traditionally, remittances from the Middle East have been the mainstay of Kerala’s economy, but with more and more of the state’s diaspora bidding goodbye to the Gulf countries, things are going to change, once and for all. According to a Kerala minister, even though there are no figures to show the exact number of people returning from the Middle East countries for good, there is a marked change in their spending pattern--such households are now more cautious about dispensing with their money. State Minister for Finance Thomas Issac while speaking to the Media in December said, “Why we say that there is an increase in our diaspora returning is because the number of arrivals at our airports far outnumbers the number of departures.” “Another indicator that things are no more that rosy in the Middle East is that there is a marked shift in the spending pattern of the diaspora households... They have become very careful now.” However, Issac also said that until now there was no fall in remittances from the state’s diaspora. “Eventually remittances might come down, but not now. Actually, the diaspora returning for good are pulling out all their savings from the country they worked in and putting in banks here,” he explained. Although decline in remittances has not been recorded in the state, the rate of growth of NRI deposits has certainly come down, according to figures released by the State Level Bankers’ Committee (SLBC). According to the only study report published in 2014 by migration expert S. Irudayarajan of the Centre for Development Studies here, 90 per cent of Kerala’s 23.63 lakh diaspora is located in various Middle-East countries, of which the UAE accounts for 38.7 per cent, followed by Saudi Arabia which has 25.2 per cent.
He also pointed out that the things are not rosy was pointed out in the KMS-2016 study, when for the first time a decline was noticed in number of Kerala emigrants abroad from 2.4 million in 2014 to 2.24 million in 2016--a drop of 1.6 lakh. The state had 1.36 million emigrants when the first KMS was conducted in 1998. The figure rose to 1.83 million in 2003, 2.19 million in 2008, 2.28 million in 2011 and peaked at 2.4 million in 2014. He added that once the results are out later in the year, the state Government can evolve appropriate interventions in education, employment and skill development of prospective emigrants as well as the re-integration of returnees into Kerala’s economy and society. Irudayarajan pointed out that it was wrong to come to conclusions only based on the arrivals and departures from the three Kerala airports as this will only give a lop-sided picture. “The figures from the airports are only numbers and do not differentiate between workers and others, as they include women and children. Besides, there are a good number of Keralites who go for holidays to the Middle East. Our 2016 survey had already showed that there was a decline and now in a few months from now, we will bring out the actual picture," Irudayarajan added.